I Don't Need an Acting Class
By Milton Justice
Academy Award winner and celebrated acting teacher Milton Justice invites you into his weekly acting class, and what has become an invaluable audio resource to actors across the globe. Based on his years of study with the legendary teacher Stella Adler and his forthcoming book of the same name, I Don’t Need an Acting Class is one of the few acting podcasts that delves deep into the craft of acting, breaking down the concepts, tools and techniques we have at our disposal and providing a practical "road in" to approaching a role. Produced by Walker Vreeland.
The Ability to Visualize
Visualization is such an enormous part of what we have to do as actors and it requires exercising our imagination on a regular basis. If we’re not consistently building worlds that are not our own, we will limit ourselves and end up creating cliches as opposed to something specific that we love, that feeds us and grounds us in the scene. Have a question for Milton? Email him at email@example.com Brought to you by weaudition.com
September 14, 2021
Thoughts on Blocking
Blocking should always come out of what is really going on in each scene. And as your emotional understanding of what’s happening becomes clearer and more profound, the blocking with naturally change. Unless the director is hugely conceptual, (and therefore “setting” stage pictures, they will welcome this. It comes back to the idea that while very few directors understand the acting process, they nevertheless expect the part to walk in the room at the audition, for our work to deepen and evolve over time, and to take their “effect direction” and translate it into something actable. Have a question for Milton? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Brought to you by weaudition.com
September 7, 2021
Ways to Raise the Stakes
“Raising the stakes” is an expression we hear a lot in the world of acting technique. In this episode, Milton gives you very practical ideas and exercises that will help you raise the stakes. These are practices you can apply to any project you’re working on that will help to turn the dial. “The reason practical techniques like this are so useful,” says Milton, “is that, without artificially raising the stakes and playing an effect, it allows you to be more active.” Have a question for Milton? Email him at email@example.com Brought to you by weaudition.com
August 31, 2021
Can You Play Two Actions at Once?
Have you ever felt like you’re playing two actions at once in a scene and therefore not committing 100% to anything at all? In this episode, Milton addresses a problem that Greg had while shooting a short film in which he felt torn between two different actions and ended up feeling confused as to what he was doing. It raised the question of whether it’s possible to play two actions at once, or if the disconnect is a result of “playing your homework” and not be clear enough on what the scene is about. Have a question for Milton? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Brought to you by weaudition.com
August 24, 2021
Knowing When It’s Not Working
In this episode, as the Ice Cream Man relentlessly plays his song on the streets of Hamilton Heights— (are they trying to make us go crazy?)— Milton talks about developing the ability to know when your work isn’t working. This is about trusting yourself. If it feels like it’s not working, it’s not. Then we have to trust that we can figure out what tools or techniques will help us. Have a question for Milton? Email him at email@example.com Brought to you by weaudition.com
August 17, 2021
Working On A Character Trait
Like the many other tools we have at our disposal, working on a character trait can give you something to hold onto, something that is “playable.” Here’s what’s important to keep in mind: a character trait is not a plot. It has to be something we can “get” about the character, without the need for dialogue. This is an example of how working internally produces external results. Have a question for Milton? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Brought to you by weaudition.com
August 10, 2021
Take Yourself out of the Mix
When creating a character, it’s important to take yourself out of the mix. If you don’t, you’ll bring the character down to you, falling back on how you would react to the given circumstances, as opposed to taking stock of what you know about the character, and building a human being based on those facts. If you know where the character ends up— being a success— then you can further examine the nature of that fact: what is the makeup of a successful person? How do they operate in the world? What do they do? Also, this episode is worth listening to just to hear Milton talk about Wu-Tang.
August 3, 2021
What Makes a Good Choice
In this episode, Milton muses on the Stella Adler quote: "Your talent is in your choices,” realizing the ways this statement has been widely misinterpreted and misunderstood. The idea has crippled actors because we’re so busy trying to come up with brilliant choices, it paralyzes us. We want the opposite. We want to be freed up when we are acting. What makes a good choice? It isn’t something clever or plot based. A choice is more personal than that. If it feeds you, brings you to life, then it's good. “The technique is meant to free you up not cripple you,” says Milton. “And the amazing choices come out of those freed up moments.”
July 27, 2021
Soul Problem Vs. Plot Problem
There’s a difference between getting the job and getting the part. And if we want to elevate ourselves to doing great work and truly “get the part,” then we have to understand that the key lies in discerning a plot problem from a soul problem. Your character’s soul problem is what runs deep. It’s what’s really going on, underneath the plot. This is not about getting the answer right, it’s an exploration that begins when you start rehearsal and in some ways, never ends. We must keep asking: what is going on with this person, beneath what they are saying? What “soul problem” is this human being wrestling with? Have a question for Milton? Email him at email@example.com Brought to you by Anchor.fm and weaudition.com
July 20, 2021
Playing a Part You Know S*** About
One of our listeners recently began work as a series regular on a new show, and found herself a little lost because of the lack of information she’s been given about her character. When you don’t know where your character came from or is headed, how do you create a three-dimensional human being? How do you approach material when you’ve been given so few facts and there is so much unknown? Do you just make it up? What if you get the character all wrong? In this special episode, Milton invites actor and former student Grant Show (Dynasty, Melrose Place) to class to address what is a complex but common situation in which so many actors find themselves, both in auditions and on actual jobs. Have a question for Milton? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Brought to you by Anchor.fm and weaudition.com
July 13, 2021
How to Talk Out
In this episode Milton shares how his “Talking Out” technique was born in order to clarify how it can best work for us as actors. We talk out in order to take ownership of what we are talking about, little by little. Instead of feeling the pressure to deliver a “performance,” we start where we are, even if it means we are not as connected as we want to be, or will eventually be. This is what Stella Adler meant when she said: “I can believe this much today.” We start small, just with what we, ourselves, can believe, and then we build on that. In each rehearsal, we come back and make more discoveries, get more specific, and more connected. Have a question for Milton? Email him at email@example.com Brought to you by Anchor.fm and weaudition.com
July 6, 2021
Where Our Research Should Lead Us
We all know the importance of doing research when creating a role, but even more important is what you do with that research. If you can’t turn it into something actable, it’s useless. This is a skill that we have to develop through practice: the ability to take a dry piece of information and determine what it means from an actor’s point of view. The facts should lead you to thinking; thinking leads you to understanding how you turn the facts into something active; and that leads you to experiencing. Have a question for Milton? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Brought to you by Anchor.fm and weaudition.com
June 29, 2021
The Accurate Conductor
As an actor, you want to be so much more than just “accurate.” You must have something going on inside of you that makes you alive on the outside. An exercise we can employ that helps us connect to the life inside of us is talking out something you love or something you hate. “You can do this if you will begin to be observers in life and not an audience in life,” Milton says in this episode. “Look at life, observe it and respond to it. You have to become involved with it.” Have a question for Milton? Email him at email@example.com Brought to you by Anchor.fm and weaudition.com
June 22, 2021
The Shorthand of Emotions
There was a period where you took the time and energy to communicate, either writing a letter or speaking. We’re now living in a world where language has become truncated into a shorthand of images and soundbites and yes, emojis. This episode is a rant about that. In may not be consequential for most people, but for actors, it’s important that we utilize the muscle of outward self-expression, lest it become atrophied. We must be in the habit of expressing what we’re feeling in our lives because it’s part of our job. Have a question for Milton? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Brought to you by Anchor.fm and weaudition.com
June 15, 2021
This is the Scene Where…
The ability to identify what’s going on in any given scene from an actor’s perspective is very important. Instead of getting bogged down in all the elements of the scene— specifically the plot and what your character is going through emotionally— we have to be able to take those facts and translate them into a clear action that activates us. If the action does not bring us to life, we have to find another one that does. This is like a gateway to freedom for the actor, a key that will free you up and allow you to access your creativity and spontaneity within the scene. Have a question for Milton? Email him at email@example.com Brought to you by Anchor.fm and weaudition.com
June 8, 2021
Building the Place in the Age of Zoom
Because of the pandemic, the nature of the business of acting has changed, and most likely there’s no going back. Working remotely has become so pervasive that even when theater reopens, self-tape auditions and Zoom readings will remain a vital part of what we do everyday. Because of that, imaginatively *building the place* is that much more essential. We may be in our bedrooms sitting in front of a green screen, but to be believable, we have to be living off of the place we’re in. In this episode, Milton talks about the necessity of visualization in the age of the closeup, because it grounds you in the place and moves you into the world of the play. “The fact is,” Milton says, “if you are not *some place,* you’re acting in a vacuum.” Have a question for Milton? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Brought to you by Anchor.fm and weaudition.com
June 1, 2021
Getting to Know You
In this episode, Milton draws parallels between the actor’s and writer’s process when it comes to creating a character. Both the actor and the writer have to live with a new character, talk with them, walk with them, get to know them fully, inside and out. The improvisational exercises we do as actors allow us to see how they behave, how they see the world. It’s not about getting the answer right, it’s a process of discovery that only comes from living with the character, and continually being curious about who they are. Through our contemplation, inquiry and experimentation they emerge. Every discovery we make is like another adjustment to a manual camera lens, and slowly, over time, the person comes into focus. Have a question for Milton? Email him at email@example.com Brought to you by Anchor.fm and weaudition.com
May 25, 2021
Big Ideas That Are Part of Us
It’s ironic that in this present global, digital age where information travels at the speed of light, we feel so emotionally disconnected to what’s happening in our world, whether in our own country or on the other side of the globe. Perhaps our access to all of it has desensitized us. This has affected our acting because of our inability to understand big ideas. “It’s not enough to be truthful or emotionally connected to it,” Milton says. “When talking about a big idea, it must have size.” Have a question for Milton? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Brought to you by weaudition.com and Anchor.fm
May 18, 2021
What Cloud Am I Under?
Welcome to Season 3! Based on Stella Adler’s work with Stanislavsky, everything we do as actors comes out of the world of the play, or the given circumstances that the writer has given us. One way into the world is understand the playwright’s world view, what they want to say. This season, as the class begins working on George Bernard Shaw, Milton asks us to begin slowly brainstorming what the world of this great writer brings to mind. “Every idea he has is challenging popular thinking,” Milton says. “He writes with a strong, intelligent well-thought-out conviction, and so it tells me, as an actor, I have to be very, very clear.” Have a question for Milton? Email him at email@example.com Brought to you by weaudition.com
May 11, 2021
Interview Your Character (Like Oprah)
A great technique that we have at your disposal when building a character, is to interview them. Or, come up with interview questions and answer them as the character you’re playing. If you, the actor, could ask your character anything, what would you most want to know? The questions you come up with become your own signature on the part because they’re coming out of your own interest; and by asking them, you are helping to fill in the blanks the character’s past, traits, drives and worldview. *This is the last episode of Season 2- we’ll be back with Season 3 this Spring, so please stay tuned! In the meantime, have a questions for Milton? Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org Brought to you by weaudition.com’
March 16, 2021
How Is This Character Different From Me?
Actors often ask: “how is this character like me?” But unless we know how the characters we play are different from us, it’s hard not to fall back on playing ourselves, or a variation thereof. Knowing the clear differences in how you and your character approach the world is the first step in finding actable character traits that will help you eventually embody this human being. Brought to you by weaudition.com
March 9, 2021
What’s Going On?
One effective way to uncover your action in a scene is to ask: what is going on with him/her/them/you? Actions, as we refer to them in acting, are often misunderstood as “activity” or “plot.” The true action is what’s going on beneath all of that, internally, within the character. It is what you are really doing to your scene partner(s) in order to get something. Asking yourself “what is going on?” gives you a broader view of your given circumstances, and your relationships, therefore helping you find something truly active to play. I Don't Need an Acting Class is sponsored by weaudition.com
March 2, 2021
Show Them What They’re Looking For
It’s important to realize how conditioned we are to quickly jump to a conclusion about a character when we read lines of dialogue. We will end up playing an uniterteresting cliché unless we slow down and dig deeper to find a bold choice that we love. This will help you enormously in auditions because if you go beyond the obvious choice, you will walk in (or appear on tape) with something whole original and compelling to watch. Brought to you by weaudition.com
February 23, 2021
“Once you go to the script, all creative work stops” Milton says. It’s a provocative statement but it’s true if you consider how most actors jump straight to a performance or an intelligent rendering of the lines before they ever have an understanding of the world they’re inhabiting, or even a monologue’s sequence of thoughts. In this week’s short episode, Milton uses the short film he’s working on as an example of what it looks like to work slowly, even on a smaller scale. Brought to you by weaudition.com
February 16, 2021
Falling Back on “Performing”
It’s something every actor can relate to: you walk in the room, onstage on in front of the camera. Your heart is racing, your mouth is dry, and before you even speak, you know your nerves are getting the best of you. In that moment, instead of trusting all the work you’ve done and living off the given circumstances, you fall back into “performance mode,” that same, old, tired gimmicky “thing” you’ve been getting by on all your life. This, according to Milton, is just part of the process. Eventually, we begin to trust that the work we’ve done is in us and it’s enough. Brought to you by weaudition.com
February 9, 2021
Trial and Error
Stanislavsky’s Method of Acting was born out of trial and error. He was not a natural talent. Had he been, we probably would not have been gifted with his discoveries of the craft. By analyzing his students’ successes and failures, and his own, he created techniques that were practical and coaxed the actor “toward the inner most source of their creativity.” Brought to you by weaudition.com
February 2, 2021
The Action Changes
As you gain a deeper understanding of the role you’re playing through analysis and rehearsal, it’s important that we give ourselves permission for our actions, or impulses, to change. It’s not something static that we decide in advance. And, if an action becomes stale and is no longer bringing you to life, it’s essential that it changes. Brought to you by weaudition.com
January 25, 2021
How Do I Know If It’s a Good Choice?
Today we revisit a question that actors never stop asking. The ability to know whether or not you’ve made a good choice is part your talent, and it’s a skill you can hone over time. A choice has to feed you emotionally but it also has to be appropriate to the character and the world of the play. And the more you know about the world that you’re in, the more it feeds your imagination which becomes fertile ground for amazing choices. Brought to you by weaudition.com
January 19, 2021
The Impulse to Begin
Stanislavsky never wanted a set vocabulary of acting. The words he used were an outgrowth of the creative work he was doing with actors. They pointed to ideas that brought actors to life, gave them something to hold onto. In other words, it was never *about* the words. Nowadays, we've become so focused on vocabulary, it's lost its meaning. So instead of asking yourself: what’s your action in the scene?” It might be more helpful to ask: “why are you going out there?” Or, “why am I telling you this?” Have an acting question for Milton? Email him at email@example.com Brought to you by weaudition.com
January 12, 2021
What Am I Trying to Say?
Our job, as actors is so much more profound than playing the part and getting applause. As Stella Adler’s father said to her: “We need to make it better for them.” When we understand what the play is fundamentally saying to the audience, and what your character represents, it not only gives us something to hold onto, but something to aspire to, lift ourselves up to. It is a universal human idea or lesson that the audience will be better for having learned when they leave the theater. Plus, Milton goes off on Wesley at the end for “trying to get it right”, so that’s fun. Brought to you by weaudition.com
January 5, 2021
How Time Period Influences Character
When building a character we can use the facts that are available to us in any way that will help us. Just as this is true for our character’s past, physical life or way of seeing the world, it is also true of the time period in which our character lives. Some helpful questions are: how does this time period effect who my character is? And how can I translate that information into behavior?
December 29, 2020
Be a Snob About Your Process
“If you’re waiting for the director to help you, you’re going to be dead in the water,” says Milton. This episode is about taking ownership of your process, how you work. This builds confidence and independence as actors. Most directors don’t understand how we do what we do, so we have to be able to translate their effect-directions into something doable. Also, we never want to feel that our performance is dependent on a director. We do however, want to be able to depend on our process, always. This empowers us and allows us to take pride in our work as creative artists.
December 22, 2020
A Return to Rasbor
This week, we return to the Russian word Rasbor, which means “to dig down” beneath what you’re talking about to get to the big, cosmic idea. This is a new way of thinking in terms of acting, a muscle that we’re not accustomed to exercising. When we talk about our characters, it should never be about accuracy, or information or words. When we talk about our characters, it should be in a way that shows we understand, experientially, the meaning of the idea. How do we get there? Through “Rasbor.” We must scratch the surface of our impressions and discoveries to reach the true meaning, or big idea, of what we’re talking about. This connects us, vitally, to the character, bringing us to life and giving us something to hold onto.
December 15, 2020
Observing Human Behavior
As actors, it is our job, our responsibility to observe human behavior. We do this to understand what it reveals about people and relationships, because it gives us information that we can use, another frame of reference for an idea or character or relationship. Imitation may be where we start but it can’t be where we end up. To inhabit the character fully we need to scratch the surface of physicality and behavior to understand what is going on underneath it and thus build the full scope of a complex human being.
December 9, 2020
Have Relationship with Everything
This week, Milton reminds us of the importance of having a specific relationship with everything and everyone around you. According to Stella Adler, the director’s job is to tell you where to enter, hit your marks and exit; your job is to fill in all the blanks, and we have limitless possibilities at our finger tips when it comes to choices. You are never in a place and time about which you have no point of view. You should never stare out a window blankly with no relationship to what you’re looking at. You should never have the same relationship to everything and everyone in a scene. These are all opportunities we must take advantage of, in order to give us depth as actors.
December 1, 2020
Staying in the Play
In this episode, we re-examine the concept of the given circumstances. Every play has its own set of given circumstances, from which all drama emerges. It’s helpful to look at your work from this perspective because it helps you understand what your character is fighting against. Milton’s objection to what is known as “substitution” or “emotional recall” is because these techniques exist in order to create an effect. And since they tap into our own lives, as opposed to the given circumstances, it pulls us out of the play we’re doing and into our own private play. “I object to it because I think it cheapens plays,” says Milton, “but also because it loses the fun for you. Part of the joy of acting is being able to live off of the play that you’re in.”
November 24, 2020
The 2 Whys
Somewhere in the process of creating a character, it’s helpful to step back and ask ourselves: why are we doing this play? Why are the characters we’re playing important? Why bother in the first place? The answers will begin moving you in the direction of a theme, and remind you that big ideas about the human struggle are timeless and vitally relevant, right now. It's also helpful to ask your character "why questions" about who they are and what is important to them. Asking these questions helps to connect you, the actor, to your character, as well as capture their essence in a three dimensional way.
November 17, 2020
The Educated Imagination
Cultivating the imagination was one of Stella Adler's core tenets as an acting teacher. But the idea of the imagination is often misunderstood when actors assume that their imagination is limited to their experience. We must inform and enrich our imaginations in order to broaden it as an instrument. When educated, the imagination becomes a much more useful tool. This is why it’s so important to do research, immerse ourselves in the character’s timeline and the period in which they live. If you can get a full picture of the world your character lives in, you then get a much clearer sense of how he or she fits into that world, which is essential in order to fully live off the facts of the play.
November 10, 2020
Know Where You’re Going
It essential for us to step back and look at our character's timeline in the play, to know where he or she is going. One of the benefits of playing a role is that, unlike in life, we know what the future is. And so the actor, unlike your character, knows where your character is headed. This is important information to have because it informs what pieces of past we need to build in order to get there.
November 3, 2020
Going There, Wherever There Is
This week, Milton talks about what it means to “go there,” or commit 100% to giving ourselves over to the circumstances of the play. It’s an enormous emotional risk because by letting go completely, we make ourselves vulnerable, revealing our true selves through a character. “It’s like going off a high diving board. You know you won’t die because there’s water there, but it’s so far down. It’s not a comfortable place to go.” Have a question for Milton? Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
October 27, 2020
The Past in the Present and the Past
This week, Milton touches on a very tenuous aspect of building a character’s past. There is a difference between experiencing a past event from the perspective of the present, and experiencing the past in that moment, as if reliving the scene. It’s an important distinction because your relationship to the past event in the present is different than it was at the time it was happening. There are no hard and fast rules here. Often we move in and out of the past and present, as we do in life when telling a compelling story; and it’s a valuable exercise to talk out an event from both perspectives. But ultimately, how you experience the past is influenced by your relationship to it (then and now), and what you're doing in the scene.
October 21, 2020
Greasing the Gears
When building a craft, it’s important that we actively put to use the tools and techniques that we’ve learned. Otherwise we’ll keep “winging it”, hoping and praying that it lands. Also, kicking ass on an exercise doesn’t mean that we’ve mastered the concept. We must be disciplined, practicing the techniques over and over again in order to integrate them into our way of working, and eventually it becomes second nature. This is about understanding that “connecting” and “being believable” isn’t enough. If the goal is to become a great actor, we must keep pushing ourselves, asking ourselves: what else could I try here? What technique could I apply to what I’m working on that will help me go deeper?
October 13, 2020
There are many different aspects of acting technique. One of them is building a character’s past. A helpful way to approach this is to know what the major events are in this person’s life. We ‘build’ these events by talking them out in improvised monologues so the character’s past is in us. If an event is referred to in the text, then you know you have to build it. But there are other events that are not mentioned in the text that we choose to build imaginatively, because it helps us get specific and fully own the character’s past, thus giving us confidence.
October 6, 2020
Acting as an Artform
In this episode, Milton talks about the difference between acting as an art form and acting to “get a job,” and how one is much more fulfilling than the other. The Art of Acting is about the pursuit of uncovering the essence, or human spirit, of the role. But that cannot be found overnight— it’s a journey through the complexity of the human condition. Part of our job, as actors is to actively make an effort to connect to other human beings and our own human emotion, especially during a time when we’re isolated from others and cut off from ourselves. “You become a better person when you become an actor,” says Milton. “It broadens you.”
September 29, 2020
The Method is a Culture
We begin our second season with a reminder that acting is not a math equation. “The method,” said Stanislavsky, “is not a guide, it’s a culture.” This means that a creative process, like a culture, is meant to change and grow. There is no hard and fast, static rule book for acting; we require different things for different roles. But if we keep digging, exploring, trying new things, seeing what works and what doesn’t, we will find choices we love, choices that feed us and give us confidence. When we can trust that everything we’ve built is *in* us and let go, that is when the most unexpected and exciting work happens.
September 21, 2020
Coming Soon: Season 2
Don't panic. We'll be back with Season 2 of I Don't Need an Acting Class in September!
August 17, 2020
Finding What's Actable
As we continue making discoveries about all the dimensions that make up a character, we always want to look for what is actable or doable. For example, if your character is compulsive, the challenge is to translate that into something doable. One way to get there is by asking ourselves: what is the nature of being compulsive? And eventually we might come up with the need “to create order around me.” If our character is in a circumstance that is shocking, it’s important to go deeper and ask: what is the nature of shock? Maybe we pull away or lash out. Whatever action we come up with, we want it to feed us emotionally. If we fail to go deeper and instead play “compulsive” or “shocking,” we will end up playing a cliche. To oversimplify it: we must figure out what we’re doing, and then we must do it.
August 11, 2020
Putting It Together
This week, Milton talks about how building different moments in your characters past reveals new information about them, and the importance of knowing exactly what that information is. We must ask the question: What does this moment I’m building tell me about my character? Your answer will clarify a new dimension of this human being. Then, we must integrate every character-discovery, so that you have a process where each piece builds on the next, or in the words of Stephen Sondheim: “the art of making art is putting it together, bit by bit.”
August 4, 2020
Truth is Stranger Than Fiction
As we approach a play and begin letting the facts simmer in our imagination, we can begin to ask questions, as though we are interviewing our character. There are no right or wrong questions and no two actors will ask the same ones. Your own personal exploration becomes part of your signature on the role. But here’s the rub: we cannot answer these questions based on our own limited personal experience, or from the cliches we have absorbed from film and television. We need to do research. What does that look like? Watching interviews and documentaries, or even better: talking to real people who share your character’s attributes and circumstances. The joy of research is that it opens us up to worlds beyond our own where we can shop for choices that feed us and help us build a 3-dimensional human.
July 28, 2020
The Pitfall of Trying to Recreate a Performance
We often run into trouble when we try to recreate a performance. This is because the action “to do what I did yesterday” is different from the action that made you DO what you did yesterday. But there are ways to avoid falling into this trap. In this episode, Milton gives examples of adjustments you can make so that the circumstances keep feeding you and the performance stays alive.
July 21, 2020
Acting is Hard
It can often be overwhelming if you think about the massive responsibility we have as actors and all the many pieces we must fully own before it all comes together to create an illusion that looks and sounds like the truth. We can’t master everything at once and if we try to, we’ll become paralyzed like the centipede who forgot how to walk when he realized each leg was doing something different. Therefore, we must focus on one thing at a time, layering each element onto the one before it, like the bricks that make up a house. “And then all of sudden, one day,” Milton says, “this fantasy happens where you don’t know where you end and the character begins. And you begin to see the world in that particular way. But slow and steady wins the race.”
July 14, 2020
Play the Cause, Not the Effect
This week, Milton talks about resisting the urge to play an effect, or a result. Often if we receive an “effect direction” such as: “it’s too big” or “it’s too small,” we will then overcompensate in the opposite direction. By doing so, we’re playing an effect, focused on our behavior as opposed to what creates that behavior. Part of being an intelligent actor is having the ability to translate an “effect direction” into something actable or doable. For instance: can I get more specific so that this feeds me more? Why am I saying this? What’s happening in the scene? What is the big idea?
July 9, 2020
More Is More
This episode is the third in our trilogy about making everything something. This week Milton gives us a strategy for this. Using his “Why I Love the Theater” exercise as an example, he discusses how to building one thing at a time by talking it out, making sure it feeds you and adding more, little by little. “We are after moments so that nothing sound pedestrian, so that every single thing has a life to it.”
June 30, 2020
Everything is Something
This week’s episode is a continuation of last week’s topic. Milton talks about the importance of treating every fact and every element as if it’s important. Even those facts that seem to be incidental plot points cannot be skipped over in rehearsal. If they are, the lie that is your play will not sound like the truth. They are facts that give us the opportunity to go deeper into character, into the given circumstances, into the idea that the writer is intending to communicate. The more specific we are when building each fact, the more confidence we have to let go and let the play play us.
June 23, 2020
In this episode, Milton takes a question from Benjamin in Canada who asked him to clarify an idea from our episode The Biggest Sin: beginning your work on a play as if you know nothing. Another way to say that is: begin your work with a mindset of assuming nothing. If you assume you already know about a fact of your character or the circumstances of the play, you’ll neglect to dig deeper and end up just throwing it away, thus making your performance cliche or 2-dimensional. Nothing is inconsequential. Every single fact is an opportunity to ask yourself: what does that really mean? How do I feel about it? The deeper we dig into the facts, and the more specific we get, the more they will feed us, and bring us to life.
June 16, 2020
Last episode we talked about theme. This week, we continue that conversation but make the distinction between truly big ideas and everything else. Big ideas affect all of us, they shape civilization. As actors, our understanding of a big idea has to go beyond our own personal relationship to it in order for us to communicate the idea that the writer intended. This is what is meant by “raising ourselves up to the size of the idea,” as opposed to bringing it down to our limited human experience.
June 9, 2020
What's the Big Idea?
In every play, there’s a big, universal, cosmic idea, (or theme.) It’s what the writer wants to communicate. As actors we must know what this big idea is. We won’t know what it is right away- our rehearsal process is our discovery process. But eventually, in order to play the part, we have to reach this understanding. Once we do, we must raise ourselves up to the size of the idea, making sure that all of our choices feed into it.
June 5, 2020
But It’s All A Lie!
This week’s episode is a direct response to a question from one of our listeners. Belen from Argentina wanted to know what to do when she’s in the middle of a scene and suddenly remembers none of it is real. Email your questions to: email@example.com
May 26, 2020
But It’s Such a Cool Choice!
It’s true that your talent is in your choices, but that’s not all there’s to it. Your choices must serve the central idea of the play, and must be consistent with the given circumstances of your character. And yet, making a good choice is still not enough. You have to understand what the cost is of your choices and then earn them emotionally. Lastly, we must strive towards creating something enigmatic: good theater. Thank you for your questions so far! If you’ve sent in a question, we have not forgotten you, and Milton will address them in upcoming episodes. Send all questions and comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
May 18, 2020
Acting is not mathematical. You won’t always use the same tools, and what worked for you during one project may not work for you in another. There are so many different paths you can take when building something out of nothing, but here’s what is certain: you must dig deep into every aspect. If you just logically answer questions, thinking that if you have the answers your work is done, your performance will be a cliche. This takes a long time to get to, but eventually we come to realize that your character doesn’t have a plot problem, she has a conflict of the soul. We come to the theater to watch her live it out.
May 13, 2020
If there’s one word all actors are familiar with it’s “objective.” But how often is the idea of “objective” a practical tool and how often is it an albatross around our necks? Stanislavsky wanted acting vocabulary to come out of common usage, and he wanted it to free us, not cripple us. Today we examine where the word came from, and whether the concept of “objective” was even Stanislavsky’s in the first place.
May 5, 2020
Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Toilet Paper
We've all been there. You look at your script and see something that resembles a list. What do most actors do? They act it as a list and by doing so, sound like they're running down a dull inventory of groceries. There's no connection to what they're talking about, no specific choices made, and therefore, no real human being with a past standing before us. This is an episode about having a specific relationship to everything you talk about. You never want to miss the opportunity to build each element specifically. Nothing is a throwaway, everything is something. And the more detailed you are, the more you'll come to life.
April 27, 2020
A Sequence of Thoughts, Not a Cluster of Words
When Milton recently asked Gustavo Dudamel, the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, what he saw when he looked at a piece of orchestral music, he said: “I see phrases.” This is a perfect metaphor for how we need to approach text as actors: not as a group of sentences but as a sequence of thoughts. As they do in life, the words need to come out of the thought, not the other way around.
April 21, 2020
Dear Milton, Please Help Me
In the Summer of 1980 during the run of a regional production of Boys in the Band, Milton wrote a letter to Stella Adler asking for her guidance. She responded: “The actor in you is beginning to feel the birth pangs in acquiring the role and that is very normal. The work you do at home is done, and is in you…Let it go where it wants. That’s the impressive joy of just letting it happen instead of forcing it.” Milton’s book “I Don’t Need an Acting Class”, on which this podcast is based, was born out of the many correspondences he has shared with his current and former students over the past decade. Although email has long since replaced letter writing, the spirit of getting to the bottom of an acting concept, or clarifying an idea that has someone stuck or confused, is the same. This episode sheds light on why that has been helpful to his students as well as to Milton as a teacher.
April 21, 2020
Building a Believable Backstory
Whether you’re auditioning for a pilot or in rehearsal for a Clifford Odets play, our jobs as actors is to launch, imaginatively, into the world of the piece, and open ourselves to its influence. But how do we build this world? By talking out one believable moment at a time and knowing we have to earn what we create. Have a question or comment? Email us at: email@example.com
April 14, 2020
I Relate to Her
As actors, most of us have had the experience of closely identifying with a character we’re playing. In this episode, Milton talks about the mistake so many of us make when we feel like we relate to a role. “The problem is,” he says, “somehow in the back of our minds we think that’s enough, that we don’t have to do any other work.” Tune in to find out how to avoid this common pitfall, and how we can turn our identification with a character into something actable. Have a question or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
April 6, 2020
A Brief History of Acting
How did we end up studying acting in the first place? In this episode, Milton puts his teaching in context by giving us a brief history of modern acting technique; from 19th-century realism to Konstantin Stanislavky and the American teachers who adapted his principals and revolutionized the American acting landscape.
March 30, 2020
Talk It Out
In this episode, Milton talks about how writing and thinking are great ways for actors to avoid acting, and offers a practical technique that allows us to fully own (and earn) our character’s reality, or in other words: make a complete lie sound like the truth. Email your questions to: email@example.com
March 23, 2020
Deadly, Deadly Facts
Contrary to popular belief, just because you can answer “who, what, why, where, when” and “what do I want?” doesn’t mean you can act. Stella Adler said: “Facts are death to the actor until they’re fed through the imagination and become the *experience* of the facts.” Tune into this episode to learn how you can allow the facts of a play to simmer within you and bring you to life.
March 21, 2020
The Biggest Sin
In this episode, Milton reveals what he feels to be The Biggest Sin of Acting and offers solutions on how we can resist the urge to commit it. What is one of those solutions? Look at the blank canvas and think: “so many possibilities.” Email your acting questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
March 16, 2020
Who Needs Technique?
Have you ever worried that studying and honing a technique as an actor will destroy your natural ability? Is acting just about being "natural"? In this first episode of I Don't Need an Acting Class, Milton answers the question: "why take an acting class?"
March 9, 2020